Sunday, 10 February 2019

Getting a soaking in oneness and what's the point in going to church - #Unitarians gather in Ringwood on 10 February at the start of their sixth year

Today the president for the day used Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, along with some contemporary non-aligned thoughts, as the readings for the gathering.   This was to counterbalance the decidedly Christian sources that had been used in the past couple of gatherings during the Christmas season.

We lit the chalice with words which are being used worldwide by Unitarians during February:

Words written by Jean-Claude Barbier of the Assemblée Fraternelle des Chrétiens Unitariens (AFCU)

Hallelujah for the chalice which contains the wine, which contains our lives;
Hallelujah for the flame which rises with our prayers, with our hopes;
Let us give thanks to God, to the divine Breath, to the Matrix that is the source of the life.
Let us give thanks for this Creation given and received.
Thanks to rabbi and teacher Jesus of Nazareth and all the wise ones of our Humanity, of all the religions, all wisdoms, all philosophies.
Thanks to all the people of our History who built this world,
That we are present, by mutual agreement, together at the meeting-point of our worship.
That we are present, listening to each other, helping each other, at the meeting-point of our worship.

After our usual ritual to welcome our circle, we had our first reading from the Taittiriya Upanishad, part III, being the story of Bhrigu and Varuna.  The translation chosen is by Eknath Easwaran.

Bhrigu repeatedly asks his father for instruction on the nature of the Brahman, and by following the instruction to meditate, Bhrigu discovers that Brahman includes all the following:  food, life, mind, wisdom, joy.  In short, whatever it is that creatures come from, whatever it is that they seek, whatever it is that they live by, and whatever it is that they return to:  that is Brahman.

For our second reading we heard an extract from We Are One: a manifesto for humanity by Simenon Honoré, pub 2010, Spirit of the Rainbow.  In the extract chosen, the writer says: “If we go yet more deeply into our own being we will discover our natural state of joy…..In awakening to this inner truth we take an important step in setting our hearts free to create a new world, within and without.”

The president mused on these two readings in the light of other assertions recently made at Unitarian and Anglican services she had been in.  Summing up, she suggested that:

  1. the task of a church is to serve the needs of people: the need to feel loved, the need
    to connect with people, the need to connect with ideas that come through people and through being with people, the need to find purpose through belonging.
  2. for herself, the ultimate aim of going to church is not to find mending on a personal level, welcome though that may be.  The ultimate aim of going into a church is to come out of church again, to re-enter the world changed, and hence to bring change to the world.  This grandiose idea is actually very humble and is rooted in what we heard in the readings: that there is connected spiritual oneness in all existence, so, by changing personally, one also changes the world.
  3. there is a state of joy, clarity, bliss, enlightenment, awakening, oblivion, awareness, union; a state that we cannot in any way earn, but neither can we be dispossessed of it; a state that - as the Buddha said - “lies behind the desires and worldly passions which the mind entertains” (from The Teaching of Buddha, pub 1966, Bukkyō Dendō Kyōkai)

We also had our candles of concern and as we start out on our sixth year together, we heard the Buddha’s advice for a successful fellowship (or Sangha).

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Next gathering of #Unitarians in Ringwood and how you can get involved - Sunday 10th February 2019

The next gathering for reverence of Unitarians in Ringwood, and their friends, will be on Sunday 10 February, arriving around 9.45 a.m. for a 10 a.m. start, in the Ringwood Meeting House on Meeting House Lane, BH24 1EY.

Car parking is opposite (fees apply); and the Meeting House is also opposite a set of bus stops served by buses from Bournemouth and Salisbury, as well as local buses.

This gathering is the first in our sixth year of meeting together and we would welcome newcomers and first time visitors as well as those who have been coming before.

For the first time we are now able to accommodate young children accompanied by a parent or guardian, as the Meeting House Association have given us permission to use the paper and crayons they make available for their own visitors, and there is space for the children to be in the same room but slightly apart.  It would be helpful if the guardian could sit with their child during the seven minutes of silence that is held during the gathering, so that we have a maximum chance of achieving the silence that we aim for.  If you wish to bring a child or children we can sort out precise arrangements when you arrive.

The key point for this gathering is that we will be opening up our annual muster.  This is an opportunity for people over eighteen to decide and declare the relationship they would like to have with our group (“Didymus”) in the next twelve months.

This is because we have categories of annual membership:

Member - (solely through formal invitation by the Members from the preceding year) - to take a full share of responsibility for the Didymus society and how it is run

Associate - to be in an enduring and close relationship with the Didymus society, and to be consulted on how it is run, without taking responsibility for the running of it

Visitor - to be in an enduring but perhaps light-touch relationship with the Didymus society, kept in touch with what is happening and why

And of course it is perfectly accepted that many people would prefer to not make any statement at all about their relationship with Didymus; to attend and participate as they please.  For more details please see the tab on our website labelled "Extract of Constitution".

The muster opens in February and closes at the April gathering.  So people have a month or so to decide and tell us how they fit.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

A school outing for the Didymus (Ringwood #Unitarians) group in January - an enlivening experience with the Southern Unitarian Association

We went today, as a group, to the Southern Unitarian Association gathering hosted by Edmund Kell Church, Southampton. In our worship service we were reminded that churches are there to serve people's needs. One of the key needs people have these days is to feel loved and connected, just like other animals. We watched a wonderful video reminding us of that.  Link below.  I bet you didn't know that turkeys want to be hugged.

We had some uplifting hymns and instead of candles for concerns, we were invited to use post it notes to record our dreams and hopes for ourselves, our Unitarianism and our world.
We were then treated to a splendid lunch by the Southampton Unitarians, after which we took part in some circle dancing.

Many people commented that it was a very good event and we parted knowing each other a little better, and enthused to come back next time - and maybe bring some friends with us.  And next time it's up to us from Ringwood to organise, host and run the event.  It won't be the same, but we hope it will be differently satisfying.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Unitarians and friends in Ringwood consider personal faith and collective worship - the genie was out of the bottle from the Edict of Torda, 1568 #WeAreUnitarians

Page from the Munich Codex of the first Hungarian translation of the Bible
We gathered again for reverence under the Unitarian umbrella at the gathering on 13 January 2019.  At the start of our gathering we noted that Unitarians widely commemorate in January the Edict of Torda, Jan 1568. This was the first piece of legislation in a European kingdom (Transylvania and Eastern Hungary) to allow people the freedom to choose the pastor of their church, and allowing pastors the freedom to interpret the Christian Gospels according to their conscience.

As usual we started with a period of quiet in which to remember our own private creed followed by a simple ritual in silence, to which each participant attaches their own meaning and from which each derives their own insights.

We then heard readings from John Dominic Crossan and Tony McNeile, which respectively showed that Jesus’ own faith changed in the light of his experience; and that whilst we can worship collectively, we each have our own experience and hence our own understanding of faith.  These readings were largely centred on Jesus and the historical Christianity from which the Unitarian movement has evolved.  So to balance them we heard a poem by Walt Whitman with his humanist, transcendentalist stance, and from Islam we heard the philosophy of Ibn al-Arabi (via an interpretation by Karen Armstrong).  As Karen Armstrong understands this 16th century scholar to mean:  “…. human beings, who became logoi, [God’s exhaled] words that express God to Godself……each human being is a unique epiphany of the Hidden God, manifesting God in a particular and unrepeatable manner…….the revelation that God has made in each one of us is unique, different from the one from the God known by the innumerable men and women who are also his logoi.  We will only know our own ‘God’ since we cannot experience God objectively; it is impossible to know God in the same way as other people.”

We prayed a prayer from the 1932 Unitarian prayer book published by The Lindsey Press; and also the “Naming God” prayer we have published on our website; and we sang three songs from the “Hymns for Living” hymnbook.  We continued our practice of sitting in complete quiet for seven minutes, which we each use for our own purposes. 

After our candles for joys and concerns, we looked forward to our fifth birthday which comes around at our next gathering.  At that gathering we will open our "muster" conversation, for people to decide the relationship they want with the Didymus group during the coming year.

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Five year old Christmas message from #Unitarian President still helpful today

In an archive of useful stuff, we found this today, dating from 2013 and written by our national President, Rev Bill Darlison: